• Editor’s note: This is the final installment of an eight-part series on the Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Team and the recommendations made to move Kaua‘i forward and recover the economy after COVID-19 impacts.
LIHU‘E — Establishing a multi-purpose resilience center, improving and increasing health resources communications and creating high-speed broadband access are a few of the ideas generated by the Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Team to address Kaua‘i‘s public-health going forward.
More ideas to fortify public health and the health-care sector include identifying and securing CARES Act and other funding for nonprofit agencies, and developing guidelines for small businesses to reopen.
Ellen Ching, administrator of the county Office of Boards and Commissions in the Office of the Mayor and sector lead for the KERST public health sector committee, spoke on implementing six recommendations created by the committee.
“While our community has largely been spared the devastating losses that we have seen in our nation, we have not been immune to all of the hardships of this pandemic,” said Ching. “Friends and families losing their jobs and wondering where their next meals is coming from.”
Ching said this is a call to action, to each person doing what he or she can to help recover and rebuild in an even better way than before.
The first recommendation of the committee is to establish a multi-purpose resilience center.
“The pandemic challenged previous assumptions of assistance from federal or state agencies or neighboring counties, and emphasized the need for Kaua‘i to increase its self-sufficiency and resilience,” said Ching. “Earlier, given the worldwide competition for PPE (personal protective equipment) and team members reporting current PPE stocks for one to two weeks, the initial concern was the availability of PPE due to the cost and the lack of inventory.”
Ching said the resilience center was proposed as a first step, to create a stockpile of PPE for the health-care sector islandwide. In a second phase, the center would be established to house emergency supplies and serve as an emergency shelter.
The second recommendation is to improve and increase communication about health resources and responses.
Ching said the team’s recommendation is based on the need for a comprehensive communication plant to conduct constant and repetitive messaging to provide accurate information in the changing environments.
“Throughout this pandemic, communication has been critical. The success of our community in minimizing the transmission of COVID-19 was built on communicating, explaining and emphasizing importance of social distancing,” said Ching. “With the gradual lifting of restrictions and airline flights returning, communication will continue to be an essential part of moving forward.”
The third recommendation is to obtain and install high-speed broadband.
Ching said that, like most people, organizations and businesses, the health sector is highly reliant on technology.
“Everywhere you look, doctors, therapists, case managers and health aides are using technology to reach out to their patients or clients,” said Ching. “We are so reliant on computers. When Kaua‘i’s system crashed for several days, most of us could not get anything done.”
She continued: “Recently, there was an article detailing the fragility of Kaua‘i’s cable. This issue was identified as the single-most-important issue to ensure our well-being now and in the future.”
The fourth recommendation is identify and secure federal CARES Act money and other funding for nonprofit agencies.
“Nonprofit organizations create a safety net for our community; however, they are consistently underfunded,” said Ching. “In an emergency like this, community needs increase, and it is important to support their ability to continue to provide the necessary services.”
The final recommendation is developing guidelines for small businesses to reopen.
Ching said that, prior to the information now provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was not a lot of guidance for businesses on best practices and how to best prepare to reopen.
Goals of the committee include providing short-term recommendations to respond to COVID-19 and to start the development of a longer-term vision.
“The gains and lessons learned today will bear more opportunities and improvements and that the health-care sector will be supported to do its best work now and into the future,” said Ching.
According to Ching, the county is working with the sector to provide health-care grant opportunities to nonprofit organizations.
“Shortly, the County of Kaua‘i will be announcing a wide variety of grant opportunities for businesses and nonprofit organizations,” said Ching. “We look forward to working with these entities to provide more support to our community.”
Ching said the committee’s goals are aligned with the county’s vision of a task force, and they are taking things slowly.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I like to think that every day as we put one foot in front of the other, we move forward and we get better,” said Ching.
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.